A small business runs with a key advantage – it is able to keep a low profile from the media glare and does not easily come into the radar of large sized competition. But not all small businesses wish to stay the same throughout – they want to grow and expand their horizon. You may have come up with a new, groundbreaking product but because it is new, it will have a high price point. You may find it difficult to sell because there are better known and more established brands out there.
But this situation is not unique to small businesses. Bigger businesses see the same challenges when they venture into newer markets. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is launching into commercial space travel, which has never been done before. It will start with its maiden flight into space next year. Let’s see what we can learn from the strategies they have used when marketing high tier products such as flight tickets.
Only when your customers know about your product, will they want to consider it for purchase. So, you must have a defined, precise plan to tell your market about. You could hire an experienced, professional agency to do it if funds permit. BUT, do not lose focus on the core product itself – it must come out as a never-done-before, fresh concept and targeted at a unique audience to start with. For example, you can view many of Virgin Galactic’s videos on YouTube to see what they did before the commercial launch. This helps build momentum and drives mind share amongst customers. Here is one such video that really captured the public’s imagination:
This is important because your business obviously has limited finances to draw from, which is also required to keep your existing operations running. Sponsors can give you the critical cushion needed until your new product or service becomes cash accretive. However, you should have this planned well in advance and be transparent about how long you would need that money. These days, you can use crowd funding, in which many people chip in with small amounts of money into your business. You can read more about it here and here.
Since the product is new and expensive, people will be curious to read about it when it is launched – how it is perceived by them in the next few days is very important. So, surprise them with lots of news that draws them to you – new price points, your future plans on the same, increased roll out with time-bound ideas! Galactic will do this too.
These days, there is always something that has already caught the attention of people. Sometimes, it is a football match, or the Ashes; Wimbledon or reality show; a new James Bond movie! Then there are new smartphone models or TVs that are brought to market every few days, and people cannot have enough of them. It is always a good idea to tie up with those products in advance and market a new T-shirt, sports kit, phones with themes and games related to your product (pre-installed). You can also announce a contest – of course, the grand prize is your product. Galactic has tied up with the reality show “Space Race”.
There is nothing that comes close to this. You have built some momentum, media frenzy and grabbed people’s attention in the run up. Now is the time to show people what you wanted to do. Galactic’s virgin flight will be covered by NBC – LIVE. And don’t hesitate in reaching out to a large audience, and there are inexpensive ways too. Tie up with telecom operators and send SMSs regularly to people to get them engaged and updated on developments.
Just as you have sponsored T-shirts and mobile phone games, you can ask other companies to sponsor you. It will be great if these sponsors are established brands as that will help customers drive to you. Be careful, however, that your product is the key message they see, and that it is not drowned by your partners. For example, Galactic’s spaceships will have partners that will help drive the values, build recognition and bring some money. But the ships will not be unnecessarily covered by plastic paint carrying other logos on it.
This could well be the currency of this century. Two of Galactic’s customers have paid using Bitcoin. While it is still in its infancy, Bitcoin is building a base rapidly and Galactic is an example where it shows that the currency may not be without merit. So why not use this? It is especially useful if your target market is young people.
This is simple and effective. It will not cover the complete cost but will offset it to some extent. Do you see messages from your sports channel on upcoming events? You can do the same. You can tie up with mobile operators to ask customers subscribe to an SMS service for a one-time fee. Then set up a revenue sharing model with the company and see money coming to you.
All software companies do this. Give a few complimentary products to customers who you trust, so they can try it before it is launched. They will be able to give you precious feedback on what is good with it and what is not. Then incorporate their feedback. Once you do this, these people will become your greatest brand ambassadors – free of charge!
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